The Washington Spirit and NJ/NY Gotham FC had to settle for a scoreless draw tonight at Subaru Park. However, despite the playoff implications of the game, much of the focus was understandably on the reckoning around the NWSL concerning abusive situations at multiple clubs.
A day after players called for owner Steve Baldwin to sell his share of the club to Y. Michele Kang, both teams — including benches — chose to come together at midfield during the 6th minute. The NWSL Players’ Association Twitter account tweeted out this statement at the same time calling for further investigations of abuse and misconduct at every single club around the league:
The early exchanges were remarkably even, with the Spirit defusing threats as Gotham tried to play in behind while Washington couldn’t quite unlock the Gotham back line with possession. Ashley Sanchez had a close look early on, but couldn’t quite fashion a shot after being picked out seven yards from goal. Sam Staab made a critical 24th minute tackle to deny Carli Lloyd — whose career was being honored on the night, with the game played as close to her south New Jersey home as possible — what would have otherwise been a breakaway from midfield.
Gotham got the game’s first real shot away in the 29th minute after some high pressing forced a giveaway in the Spirit box, but Margaret Purce’s shot was contested and ended up going right to Aubrey Bledsoe.
Purce went close with a 53rd minute effort that zipped over the bar, while Ashley Hatch capitalized on some sleepy Gotham defending on a throw-in in the 55th, only for her no-angle shot to never quite tuck into the bottom corner.
However, after that open exchange to start the half, the game fell back into a familiar rhythm. The game’s next chance of any kind saw Bledsoe do very well to deny Lloyd from inside the six-yard box in the 78th minute after a flick-on fell into a dangerous spot. Sheridan had a similarly brave play in the 86th, claiming substitute Tegan McGrady’s inviting cross from the left before Anna Heilferty, another sub, could poke it home.
A third substitute, Tara McKeown, saw Sheridan tip her near-post shot in the 87th minute wide, and then directed a 90th minute header into Sheridan’s arms after Julia Roddar picked her out from the left. Washington was clearly pushing for a win, with Kelley O’Hara forcing Sheridan into another save just moments later, and both McKeown and Kumi Yokoyama unable to turn 19-yard shots into the winning goal.
Despite the late flurry of chances, though, the Spirit couldn’t find a winner. The draw did keep Gotham one point behind them, with the Spirit (7W-6D-7L, 27 points) remaining in 6th place. However, they could still fall out of the playoff places if Houston wins in Portland later tonight. Washington will be back on the field quickly, as they host Racing Louisville this Saturday, October 9, at Audi Field.
NWSL Regular Season - Game 20
NJ/NY Gotham FC 0
Washington Spirit 0
Gotham (433): Kailen Sheridan; Caprice Dydasco, Gina Lewandowski, Estelle Johnson, Imani Dorsey; McCall Zerboni (C), Allie Long, Carli Lloyd; Margaret Purce (Brianna Pinto 89), Ifeoma Onumonu (Évelyne Viens 77), Paige Monaghan (Nahomi Kawasumi 46)
Spirit (4312): Aubrey Bledsoe; Paige Nielsen (Julia Roddar 65), Emily Sonnett, Sam Staab, Kelley O’Hara; Tori Huster (Tegan McGrady 65), Andi Sullivan (C), Dorian Bailey; Ashley Sanchez (Kumi Yokoyama 88); Trinity Rodman (Tara McKeown 82), Ashley Hatch (Anna Heilferty 82)
Gotham - Long 79
Spirit - Sullivan 77